Cowboys’ Randy Gregory blasts NFL, NFLPA for ‘unfair’ delay in reinstatement process, team remains optimistic

The wait continues for Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory, but he’s done being silent. The veteran pass rusher, who is currently serving an indefinite suspension levied in early 2019 that cost him all of last season, applied for reinstatement in early spring, but he has yet to hear a definitive verdict from league commissioner Roger Goodell. The league has a preset 60-day window to render a verdict on reinstatement applications, and Gregory’s case has blown right past that mile marker — now pending for more than four months — so it stands to reason the former second-round pick would eventually reach his breaking point.

On Wednesday afternoon, that’s precisely what happened. Gregory took to social media to aim a very pointed stick at both the NFL and the NFLPA for what he rightfully views as a mishandling of his case.

“I really miss playing football and being a player in the NFL,” he said. “I’m doing everything that is asked of me and I’m in great shape physically, mentally and emotionally, but I’m being held back from furthering my career because of COVID and testing. I’ve been ready to play and test for months but still have gotten little to no help to resolve my reinstatement. I’m asking more questions than I’m getting answered. It’s amazing that the powers that be can keep passing the buck and also use this pandemic as a way to prevent me from joining my team. 

“Telling me to just sit and wait in limbo over things I can’t control, all the while doing everything right off the field is unfair and flat out wrong!”

In an exclusive talk with CBS Sports in mid-March, the 27-year-old made it clear he not only expects to return to the field for the Cowboys in 2020, but that it will be “for good this time.” All indications pointed to him being correct, and still do, despite the delay a source in mid-June characterized as “bureacratic and logistical,” hinting strongly at the fact the holdup is just as Gregory suggested — tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The problem, as a separate source explained at the time and reaffirmed following Gregory’s social media jab, is that the reinstatement paperwork has been passed from hand to hand as the league and NFLPA seemingly hit pause on what it viewed as lesser matters during a time wherein both sides were hammering away at COVID-19 protocols and resolving disagreements regarding training camp and preseason.

Contrarily, newly-signed teammate Aldon Smith saw his paperwork fly through the pipeline despite having not played football since 2015, but that was also admittedly because he not only applied before Gregory, but also ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic walloping the U.S. 

That said, while the league and the NFLPA have good reasoning for some sort of delay with Gregory’s reinstatement, as he readily points out, it’s been over four months and counting, and with veterans having already reported to training camp, the expectation has long been he’d be able to join them. Instead, he must continue to wait and hope for a verdict soon, in a year where teams must contend with a shortened camp and no preseason games to help in ramping up to the regular season. Considering head coach Mike McCarthy would love to have Gregory at practice to help solidify the team’s pass rush, the timing of it all is truly putting a dent in everyone’s plans.

To that point, and despite rumors to the contrary, sources tell CBS Sports the Cowboys have not lost hope and still believe there’s a great chance Gregory will take the field for them in 2020, so much so they’re looking for permissible ways to allow him to interact with the team at camp

Those same sources confirm Gregory has taken all necessary measures to establish an in-depth support system, ramped up his therapy sessions far beyond the required number of sessions, has remained prepared for any and all testing the league would require he undergo to rubber stamp a reinstatement, and is in the best mental state they’ve seen in his time with the club. He’s also remained in shape during his current suspension, his regimen including taking up boxing to both remain in shape and to help increase his hand speed as he looks forward to what expects should be a green light from Goodell. For his part, Gregory simply wants answers, as opposed to replies that generate more questions. 

And he’s not holding back, having called out an association rep only days prior to his Wednesday comments, and receiving a general reply but no timely follow-through (if at all).

“I find it interesting that you have time to tweet all day, but you and your boss can’t email me and my agent back,” Gregory said to Joe Briggs, staff counsel for the players’ association. “NFLPA, can y’all help me understand?”

Briggs advised the Cowboys pass rusher he should have an email from him “shortly,” and attempted to reassure Gregory the NFLPA is still working for him, but that gesture rang hollow in the mind of a frustrated Gregory. 

“Don’t try to save face publicly,” Gregory replied. “We both know what happens behind closed doors.”

An hour later, the Cowboys defensive end doubled back and made Briggs aware the aforementioned email never arrived, a point that not-so-ironically underscores the foundation of his frustrations. The team itself shares in the disappointment of a lengthened delay, but remain rooted in optimism based on Gregory’s continued progress and a new collective bargaining agreement that vastly decriminalizes the use of marijuana within the league, essentially altering the landscape as a whole.

In his battles with bipolar depression and clinical anxiety, while having never been arrested or charged with any criminal activity, Gregory’s suspensions are rooted in his choice to use marijuana to self-medicate — as opposed to much harsher prescription drugs he believes carry side effects that could also include addiction — and the subsequent failed tests that stemmed from it. The NFL made it clear with the new CBA their goal is to better understand and foster treatment for mental illness at all levels, however, putting into place new requirements designed to help them in that mission

But in the eyes of Gregory, and many others, they’re not off to the best start. The talented pass rusher feels like he’s already lost valuable time in his NFL career because of the league’s mishandling of mental illness and their trepidation in catching up to sweeping changes in marijuana legislation, and it’s difficult to argue against those points. 

The good news is Goodell hasn’t turned down his request to rejoin the Cowboys this season, but the bad news is no one knows if anyone’s looked at Gregory’s paperwork yet, roughly 140 days or so after having received it — and nearly 80 days after the 60-day deadline.

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